Tips for Early Career Researchers

Tips for Early Career Researchers

Tips for Early Career Researchers in Ancient World Studies

A. Establishing a track record

1. Publish your thesis as a monograph as soon as possible.

This is critical. You can revise your thesis in light of your examiner's reports after securing a contract (the publisher will usually want to see the reports, will want to see you respond to them, and will usually give you their feedback on the basis of reader's reports as well). If you wish, you can include a covering letter setting out how you plan to revise the thesis in light of the reports if any suggested problems with it. The important thing is to start the process as soon as possible. If you can put a forthcoming book under contract on your CV, then that's as good as a book in terms of job and fellowship applications. Ask the publisher to supply you with the book's ISBN as soon as possible after you've signed the contract, and put that on your CV as well.

There are suggestions on how to go about publishing your thesis here.

2. Publish articles and book chapters

Notwithstanding the thesis publication as a monograph, you will need 3-4 journal articles or book chapters to be competitive for most postdoctoral fellowships, so you need to get these out as soon as possible. If you can, publish articles while you're doing your thesis. Don't publish underprepared work just for the sake of getting publications, but it does give you a head start if you can start publishing some parts of your thesis (or other research) before you submit. Once you've submitted, select some sections which can stand alone, and begin working them up into articles.

  • Only published in refereed journals.
  • International journals are preferable. Don't publish exclusively in local journals.
  • Choose journals that are well regarded in your field: the harder to get into, the better.
  • The ARC has discontinued the journal ranking system, but do make sure that the journal is well regarded.
  • Book chapters are good, but try to make them in significant collections that are refereed and published with good publishers.
  • Conference proceedings aren't looked on with particular favour by many referees. Don't avoid them completely, particularly if they're refereed, but journal articles and book chapters are preferable.
  • Too many book reviews are a bad look. Do a few, but they are routinely ignored when people are assessing your CV, so don't do too many.

3. Build a track record of winning grants

Successfully applying for small grants is important for two reasons.

(a) If you can win funding to travel somewhere overseas to do research, this will improve the final outcome of that research.

(b) If you can show you've been able to win grants in the past, it will make you a more attractive candidate when you apply for jobs and fellowships (cf. below).

No one expects you to be winning ARC Discovery projects straight out of your PhD, but look around at what sort of Travelling fellowships are available. Macquarie graduates have several options available (cf. here), but there are others, such as the Australian Academy of the Humanities Travelling Fellowships

B. Applying for postdoctoral fellowships

In Australia the main schemes open to researcher in ancient world studies are:

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA).
University Fellowship schemes, such as the Macquarie University Research Fellowship Scheme.

1. Choosing a location

In an Australian context, it is a good idea to apply for a fellowship at a different university to that at which you did your PhD. Panels usually look more favourably on candidates who are moving from the University at which they did their PhD, and candidates who are applying at the university at which they did their PhD usually have to write a justification explaining why they are doing so. Sometimes, however, there are valid reasons, such as a concentration of expertise in exactly the area in which you wish to study, and so a case can be made.

There are also a number of postdoctoral fellowship schemes offered by various overseas organisations. These are highly competitive, and are sometimes available only to citizens of the respective country, but they are worth investigating.

2. Designing a project

Most postdoctoral fellowships are three years, so you have to propose a project that can be completed within that time frame. If a project seems too large, you won't get the fellowship. However, your project should still be ambitious, and large and complex enough to justify you being paid for 3 years to do it. Look at previous successful applications (most research offices will have these available for consultation), and take advice, especially from your fellowship sponsor and the Research Office at the institution at which you are applying.

3. Choosing a sponsor

If the scheme you're applying for requires a sponsor, this is something to which you must give very close attention: at times, your first choice may not be available, as staff can usually only sponsor one candidate in any scheme in any round, but in so far as possible, choose someone with research interests close to your own who you would like to work with. The best fellowship proposals are those where the sponsor's field of research is closely related to that of the candidate, and where the sponsor has been actively involved in preparing the application by discussing the project, reading and advising on drafts, and who appears engaged and interested in the research project if they are required to write anything in the application.

4. Drafting your application

It is important to read the funding rules for the scheme you are applying for carefully. Follow the formatting instructions to the letter: do not exceed the page limits specified in the Funding Rules; use the specified font size (usually 12 point); stick to the margins requested. DO NOT try to get tricky by compressing your font, or line spacing too much. Assessors can see straight through this, and it annoys them: once you've annoyed the assessor it's a hard road back, no matter how great your project is. Worse still, these sort of formatting issues will normally mean that your application is ruled to be ineligible.

To help stick to the page limit, delete all instructions, including things like '(1 page maximum)' or what is supposed to be in a particular section, out of the form. Unless specified otherwise, submit your application as a pdf, so the formatting doesn't change and run over a page.

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